COLUMBUS -- Minster junior Dominic Slonkosky wanted to make sure he at least brought the Wildcats’ 3200 meter relay team a fourth-place finish.
“I didn’t want to slow down or hit a wall,” Slonkosky said.
Slonkosky did a whole lot more than that with a blistering final lap that pushed the Wildcat quartet into third place with a new school record time.
Minster’s 3200 meter boys and girls relay teams both reached the podium on Friday morning to begin the Division III state championship meet at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus, continuing the Wildcats’ success in distance relays for yet another year.
Minster sophomore Andrew Fausey, junior Andy Albers, senior Eric Dahlinghaus and junior Slonkosky set a Minster-record 8:01.74 time while the girls 3200 relay team matched its fifth-place finish from a season ago.
The Wildcat boys moved into third in the race’s final seconds.
Slonkosky caught Maplewood’s Wyatt Hartman with about 200 meters left and then passed him with 100 meters left down the straightaway.
“I got a chance with a 100 meters to pass him and I did it with all my heart,” Slonkosky said. “It just felt good that all that hard work paid off.”
At times the 3200 boys race looked more like something on a dirt track speedway.
“My entire second lap there was bumping and everything,” Fausey said. “It’s the most physical race I’ve ever been. It’s like at state cross country. I kind of expected it, but if it had gone another 10 meters something bad might’ve happened.”
Andy Albers looked at the finish as some personal vindication. “Last year I took it out on myself because I was six seconds slow, but this year I ran a good race,” Albers said. “I’m proud of my teammates.”
The lone senior, Dahlinghaus, talked about how close this group of four runners has become.
“We can joke around with each other, get mad at each other and know we don’t mean it,” Dahlinghaus said. “We’re always comparing splits and trying to get the better of each other.”
Minster’s A.J. Huelsman again reached the fourth-place spot on the podium for his work in the Division III boys pole vault, a satisfying finish to his junior campaign that has him looking towards even bigger things for his senior season.
Huelsman cleared 13 feet, six inches for his fourth-place finish. Huelsman vaulted 14 feet a season ago as he finished fourth as a sophomore.
“I’m happy but a little disappointed also,” Huelsman said. “I was expecting a bigger height, but I got fourth and I’m pretty happy about that.”
Huelsman, just a junior, will get another crack at a third straight state trip and winning a state championship next season.
“The goal? To probably win it all. The height? 14-6 or 15 feet,” Huelsman said.
Huelsman had some company at state, as Minster senior pole vaulter Alan Tebbe finished tied for ninth after clearing 13 feet.
Huelsman said having a teammate to prepare and push him was a great experience.
“It’s definitely more fun having two guys in one event,” Huelsman said. “You’re not practicing by yourself all the time and it give you someone to compete with.”
The Minster girls 3200 meter relay team of three freshmen and a senior took fifth, matching the team’s finish in the event a season ago. The lone returner was senior and three-time state qualifier Natalie Fausey. The three freshmen Katherine Burke, Kaci Bornhorst and Julia Slonkosky joined Fausey and ran a 9:41.24 time.
Fausey said the team was a bit disappointed in the finish. Minster entered the race with the second-fastest qualifying time and had edged state champion Russia the week before at the Piqua regional the week before.
“We were shooting for first, but different things happen,” Fausey said. “Some teams just come out of nowhere here.”
Minster had to deal with a runner from another team that fell down and rolled into the Wildcats’ lane during an exchange. Fausey said things like that are just part of the challenge of running at state, however.
“It was kind of tough knowing we could’ve been right there this week, but different things happen,” Fausey said.
Minster’s boys are currently in eighth place with 11 points with six events scored. The Minster girls are tied for 23rd with four points.